Thursday, June 21, 2007

Glick era shaping into form at Gwynn Park

Yellow Jackets showing improvement under coach’s system

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Year one of the Mike Glick era with the Gwynn Park High School boys’ basketball team did see the Yellow Jackets continue their recent run as state championship contenders.

And the quality of basketball was not reflective of the teams Glick coached in his previous stops at Archbishop Spalding and St. Vincent Pallotti high schools, where his teams won multiple private school league championships.

The Yellow Jackets started last season with five consecutive losses. Gwynn Park’s 2007 summer league coach, Brian Brennan, attributed the team’s early woes last season to learning Glick’s system.

The team eventually caught on, winning its last five games of the regular season and taking eventual 3A South Region champion Largo down to the final minutes in a regional semifinal setback.

‘‘I think the most important thing for us was getting experience,” Glick said Tuesday evening after watching the Yellow Jackets suffer a 32-26 setback to Laurel at the Wise Battleground League. ‘‘I thought my first season went very well. I was very happy with the way we finished.”

A year into his tenure, Glick said the current group of Yellow Jackets’ players have learned his system and ‘‘got it down.”

The goals for the Yellow Jackets this summer are the same as virtually every team.

‘‘We want to get better,” said senior guard Sean Thomas, one of Gwynn Park’s leaders. ‘‘We all have to work on our games individually. Coach Glick is the type of person that will yell at you, but then turn around and encourage you and give you a compliment. He gives us sort of tough love.”

Thomas and several of his teammates have recruiters hot on their trail. Thomas has been getting looks from Navy, George Mason, Hampton and Holy Cross among others.

Thomas’ senior teammate Chibu Ikachuko excels on the basketball court, but moreso on the gridiron where he is being recruited to play football by Boston College, North Carolina State and James Madison.

Ikachuko said he thinks the basketball team will ‘‘go all the way” and contend for a state championship.

‘‘Our experience is our biggest strength,” Ikachuko said. ‘‘We have a lot of players coming back from last season. This summer, we have to bond well and know coach’s system. But coach said that we have to learn to play the whole game from beginning to end.”

The Yellow Jackets will open the 2007-08 season with the same starting lineup that finished the 2006-07 campaign. But developing a bond has been tough to do early on during the summer.

Some players have gone on vacations with family, and some work. Others, like Ikachuko — who has not been with the team for the past three weeks — have been away on recruiting trips.

On the court, the team still has a lot of work to do.

‘‘I think the thing that we have to work on is mostly our defense,” senior guard Harold Washington said. ‘‘We’re weak in [transition]. But we have definitely improved since last season. Sometimes, we were playing separately and not as a unit. But our front line is pretty strong this year and we know how to get to the basket.”

In addition to the Wise Battleground League, Gwynn Park will participate in a number of team camps starting with the D.C. Board Games this weekend at Henry A. Wise High. And Glick is hoping to prepare the team for everything associated with the summer and upcoming season.

‘‘I’m very excited because we have great kids and great academic students,” Glick said. ‘‘It’s important that we improve as basketball players collectively and individually and get better as athletes in our conditioning. I really want to get them prepared for getting exposure and I have my eyes set on July 5, the first day of the collegiate open recruiting period.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.